There are both federal and state trucking regulations that need to be followed in California. Federal trucking regulations are promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and govern interstate commercial truck drivers nationwide. After suffering injuries in a truck accident, it is crucial to retain an attorney who understands these regulations and how to gather appropriate evidence that there have been violations. Your Folsom truck accident lawyer also should know experienced experts who can assist with truck accident reconstruction if there are conflicting accounts of what happened. At The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC, our principal has experience in the insurance industry and law enforcement that benefits our clients.
Claims Based on Violations of Federal Trucking Regulations
Both interstate truck drivers and the trucking companies that hire or employ them are required to follow the federal trucking regulations. Serious or willful rule violations can put the driver and company into the criminal justice system, but that does not necessarily help the victims of the driver or the company’s negligence or recklessness in violating the regulations. If you are injured as a result of a truck accident, it is crucial to hire a Folsom personal injury attorney who understands the federal trucking regulations and whether they have been violated in your case.
Among the aspects of driving regulated by the FMCSA are hours of service, drug and alcohol testing, and maintenance. When a truck driver fails to follow one of these regulations, it can be a very strong piece of evidence for an attorney seeking to show negligence after a truck accident. Commercial truck drivers need to follow federal regulations related to hours of service. They must take mandatory rest breaks, and if they reach a maximum of 70 hours of driving in a single week, they can only resume driving after resting for 34 hours in a row. They are supposed to keep accurate records of their hours in a logbook, and their employer is supposed to check that logbook.
The FMCSA testing rules require drug tests prior to employment, when there is a reasonable suspicion, randomly, and after an accident. The test is supposed to identify whether a driver has PCP, amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, marijuana, or alcohol. Trucking employees are supposed to have a designated employer representative who oversees employer compliance with drug testing regulations.
Trucking companies may only allow a driver to perform tasks that require safety if they receive a favorable result on the pre-employment test, and the employer is also supposed to interview a potential employee about drug and alcohol testing history and get prior employers’ records. If an employer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver has done drugs or consumed alcohol, it is supposed to test the driver. If there is a fatal truck accident or a citation for a moving violation that involved necessary medical care away from the accident site or the towing of a vehicle, the truck driver involved is supposed to be tested for drugs and alcohol. When their blood alcohol concentration is .04%, the truck driver can be charged with a DUI, and the DUI conviction could be used as evidence of negligence or negligence per se.
To prove the truck driver’s negligence, you will need to show that the truck driver owed you a duty to use reasonable care, and the truck driver breached this duty, in addition to causation and actual damages. In most cases, a jury will find that a truck driver breached the duty to use reasonable care in violating a federal safety regulation. In some cases, there is a presumption of negligence per se based on a violation of a safety regulation.
A trucking company can also be found negligent or negligent per se for violating the federal trucking regulations. For example, if a truck driver’s manager realizes that he is falsifying his logbook, and he has signs of drug use, the trucking company may be directly liable under a theory of negligent supervision if it does nothing about it. Similarly, if a trucking company violates the FMCSA regulations by failing to do any of the required background checks to make sure that the driver does not have an alcohol abuse problem, it may be liable for a subsequent drunk driving accident under a theory of negligent hiring.